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Book Review

Unknown and Well Known by W G Turner; edited by E N Cross; published by Chapter Two. Available from John Ritchie Ltd; price £14.95.

Unknown and Well known is largely a re-issue of W G Turner’s classic biography of J N Darby first published in 1901, then entitled Brief Sketch of the Life and Labours of John Nelson Darby. As the Publisher notes, there is confirmation that William Kelly, a close associate of J N Darby, checked for accuracy Turner’s biography. Cross’s editorial work has been accomplished skilfully. The additional material does not intrude into the reader’s consciousness or mar his enjoyment. The Publisher hints at "a comprehensive biography…that is still awaited".

In a relatively small 168-page hardback, a full account of the prestigious labours of Darby cannot be given. Nor can the reader be provided with sufficient background material to allow him to assess the often-turbulent era through which Darby lived. Where the context is set, the reader learns more of that worthy servant of God, for example, in the description of the appalling spiritual condition of the Church of England that confronted Darby as a young man. Few not familiar with the ecclesiastical history of that period could envisage the low spiritual state of that body and of the nation to which it purported to provide spiritual guidance.

Turner provides an interesting insight into a man he clearly much admired. He notes his scholarship, impressive by any standards and the more so in one whose itinerant ministry took him to every corner of Britain and Ireland and over much of western Europe and America. He notes the carefulness and love with which Darby dealt with poor and the young – features never evident from his written ministry. The author also notes that Darby was too easily influenced by others, at times with regrettable consequences. That kind of honesty is not always a feature of Christian biographies.

The welcome publication of Unknown and Well Known may introduce a younger generation to a servant of God whose works like Synopsis of the Books of the Bible are on many shelves and whose hymns are still sung in companies of the Lord’s people. The portrayal of Darby’s devotion to Christ is perhaps the most important contribution the biography makes.

TW

The Shepherd’s Hut, by Duncan Maxwell; published by Gospel Folio Press. Available from John Ritchie Ltd; price £8.99.

If there is one good reason why believers today should take a fresh look at the truths concerning the tabernacle, it is to know more about the dwelling place of God.

The author of The Shepherd’s Hut explains in the Introduction why he chose this specific title: "The Hebrew word ‘mishkan’ (Strong’s 4908) means a residence or dwelling place. It could be translated in Scripture as ‘tabernacle’ but could be used to describe a shepherd’s hut".

Numerous books have been published on the subject of the tabernacle, providing insights into both its structure and symbolism. One such presentation by James Strong, the editor of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance reveals a radically different definition of the tabernacle from the majority of more familiar interpretations.

Duncan Maxwell decided to build a model of the tabernacle according to Strong’s deductions. At the same time he began constructing a second model of a more conventional description, in order to compare the two designs. The meticulous attention to detail demanded by such a project is evidenced in this book.

The Shepherd’s Hut presents a clear, concise consideration of pertinent truth relating to the tabernacle – a real appetiser for the reader’s appreciation and enjoyment.

The author’s orderly approach is blended with devotional discernment. The Golden Lampstand is presented as follows: 1) Lampstand Construction. 2) Lampstand Character. 3) Capacity of the Lampstand. 4) Comfort. Under this fourth point, the heartfelt observation is made: "He is with us when the road is dark, when there is no light in the sky".

The priesthood and the temples are viewed briefly. An extensive Bibliography lists over 30 works, with excellent sources of information for those interested in further study. A collection of full-colour photos enhances the book.

The Shepherd’s Hut will cause the reader to echo the triumphant note with which the author concludes: "What a Shepherd! What a Dwelling Place!".

AC

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